Only a strong social democracy, not a trickledown capitalist model, will deliver for the Virgin Islands.
It was small business and the working man that kept the VI economy alive after Hurricane Irma, and they will do the same post-Covid-19. Small business and strong consumer spending will drive economic growth and prosperity when the pandemic finally ends. That has got to be the key economic lesson from five years of social and economic crisis for the VI.
Now it is critical that the VI government forges the strongest possible partnership with the small business sector to ensure strong economic growth after the pandemic ends.
This writer is certain that pent-up demand for travel and tourism will drive rapid economic growth in both the local market and wider regional economy from late 2022. However, small business resilience and growth must be priority number one for that to happen, and for the average person to benefit.
Government must drive innovation in the economy and fine tune its role as small business facilitator and enabler. That will mean removing unnecessary regulation and ensuring small business has a seat and strategic presence at the table of governance.
Adopting a culture where small business is placed at the front of the queue will drive economic and job growth, which is fundamental to the VI economy.
Economic stimulus is crucial for jump-starting an economy under the burden of recession. And it is always better in the social democracy that the Virgin Islands Party espouses that spending be focused on the poor and vulnerable and the small business sector first and foremost.
Investment at the bottom of the wealth pyramid — putting cash in the pockets of the poor and struggling small people — is a bottom-up economic approach that will enable any economic bump to become a tidal wave of prosperity that delivers long and lasting economic growth and prosperity. That is the essence of a consumer-demand-driven recovery.
Stimulus spending directed at the bottom of the social pyramid has been proven to drive strong consumer demand, leading to strong and resilient economic growth.
The poor and working classes spend on necessities, and that cash goes directly into the areas of the economy that drive economic and job growth. On the other hand, stimulus spending that ends up in the pockets of the rich tends to stagnate in bank accounts or is simply used to reduce business debt.
A well-resourced and effectively managed small business sector has the capability to pull an economy out of the ditch of recession and stagnation by touching and energising every other component of the economy.
Trickledown economies have failed miserably in driving economic growth. The poor have not benefitted from trickledown and the beneficiaries have been the one percent, while the 90 percent have seen little increase in their wealth since the early 1990s. The narrative from supply-side trickledown has been a massive increase in inequality with the wealthier getting vastly wealthier.
‘The small man’
The post-Covid-19 recovery must be driven by the small man and small businesses, while government helps small business by investing in a first-rate physical and social infrastructure that is the greatest platform for small business growth and economic prosperity.
For governments, the best way to secure the wider economy by building resilience is to invest in adequate power supply; resilient road networks; accessible quality health care; good public safety; good sanitation; quality basic education; vocational and skills training; and so on.
A focus on driving down poverty, empowering youths through trades and vocational skills, and ensuring robust physical and social infrastructure is the way forward post Covid.
And that means small business success, first and foremost.
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